Archive for the 'music mondays' category

Best Jazz Albums 2017: A list of lists

Dec 21 2017 Published by under friday fun, music, music mondays, Uncategorized

A new bizarre obsession seems to have taken hold, to join the Best Science Books one. Sad! No, happy!

I've also done lists for 2015 and 2016 and look forward to doing another for 2018 in twelve months time!

This particular post collects lists of "best of the year" jazz albums I've found across various websites. For the purposes of this project, I'm not giving each list its own post and showcasing the albums that are part of the list. That's an awful lot of work, which I'm reserving for the science books project which is more core to the mission of this blog.

Note: I've included a few not-exclusively-jazz lists if they've happened to include either jazz sections or lots of jazz-ish items. If this project has any happy outcome, it would have to be my readers broadening their musical horizons by discovering great new music through these lists, the wider and more varied the better.

If I've missed any important list, please let me know in the comments. In particular, I'm really looking to expand my coverage beyond English-language lists. I've got a few in French and even on in Italian and I'd love get more. I"ll likely update this list of lists at least one more time, likely in the first or second week of January 2018.



Some additional resources: Metacritic Music Critic Top Ten Lists

My top 10 Albums? Not possible to come up with any sort of consistent permanents best list, but sure, here goes, in alphabetical order of course. And by "best" I really mean a few albums that made an impression. I'll also concentrate on maybe a few that didn't get as much attention in the lists above.

  • A Rift In Decorum, Ambrose Akinmusire
  • Eternal Stories, Michel Portal, Richard Héry, Xavier Tribolet, Quatuor Ebène
  • Far From Over, Vijay Iyer Sextet
  • Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens
  • Infinitude, Christine & Ingrid Jensen w Ben Monder
  • Ladilikan, Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet
  • Live from the Fox Oakland, Tedeschi Trucks Band
  • Our Point Of View, Blue Note All-Stars
  • Signs LIVE!, Peter Bernstein Quartet
  • The Passion Of Charlie Parker, Various artists
  • Under the Influence Suite, Orchestre National de Jazz Montréal, Christine Jensen, dir.


Favourite concerts? A few of those too!

  • Coco Love Alcorn, Auer House (house concert)
  • Dave Liebman & Mike Murley Quartet, The Rex
  • Joel Frahm w/Turboprop, The Rex
  • Mike Downes Quartet, Gallery 345
  • DKV, The Burdock (TONE fest)
  • Christine and Ingrid Jensen / Infinitude, L'Astral (FIJM)
  • Joshua Redman Still Dreaming, Maison Symphonique (FIJM)
  • Lizz Wright, Monument National (FIJM)
  • Dave Young Quintet, The Rex
  • Lina Allemano Trio, Handlebar (KMJF)
  • A Tribute to Muddy Waters & Howling Wolf featuring Paul DesLauriers, Julian Fauth, Dylan Wickens, Guy Belanger and Jack de Keyzer, Danny Marks host, Hugh's Room

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Friday Fun: Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

Apr 28 2017 Published by under around the web, friday fun, music, music mondays

Like with La La Land a few months back, here we have a jazz-themed documentary that I haven't seen yet but have read an awful lot about.

Unlike La La Land, I actually intend to see Chasing Trane and actually have tickets to see an upcoming showing at a Toronto theatre.

The reviews seem fantastic, with more or less unanimous opinion that the film does justice to Coltrane both as a person and as a musician.

Some of what I've been reading...

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Music Mondays: La La Land saves Jazz! Or not! Or maybe jazz saves La La Land?

Jan 16 2017 Published by under music mondays

The newish hit movie La La Land is creating quite the tempest in a teapot in the jazz world these days, and even a few ripples of jazz-related commentary out side of it. The prospects for an awards bonanza are quite strong, starting with the recent Golden Globes and perhaps continuing to the Oscars. Which would be quite the feat for a musical/romantic comedy.

Personally, I haven't seen the movie yet and possibly never will. My record for jazz flicks is inconsistent to say the least. I saw the recent Chet Baker biopic but not the Miles Davis one or even the La La Land director's previous jazzy outing, Whiplash. (Of the ones I've not seen, the Don Cheadle Miles Davis is the one I most want to catch up to.)

What I have been doing is reading an awful lot about La La Land, especially as relates to the state of modern jazz.

So I thought I'd share some of that reading. Enjoy!

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Music Mondays: Best Jazz Albums 2016: A list of lists

Dec 18 2016 Published by under friday fun, music, music mondays, Uncategorized

Another annual obsession to add to the list, along with the listings of best science books? Look like it, if last year and this year are anything to judge by.

This particular post collects lists of "best of the year" jazz albums I've found across various websites. For the purposes of this project, I'm not giving each list its own post and showcasing the albums that are part of the list. That's an awful lot of work, which I'm reserving for the science books project which is more core to the mission of this blog.

Note: I've included a few not-exclusively-jazz lists if they've happened to include either jazz sections or lots of jazz-ish items. If this project has any happy outcome, it would have to be my readers broadening their musical horizons by discovering great new music through these lists, the wider and more varied the better.

Enjoy! And happy listening!


There are certainly many more lists to come, probably many of them only popping up well into the first week of January. I'll probably update this post a few more times up until that point. In particular, there are not too many Canadian lists yet so I'm looking forward to catching up with some of them.

If I'm missing any lists, please let me know in the comments.

Related, from last year here's a huge list of lists of lists covering jazz, even very marginally. I'm looking forward to this year's compilation. Avant Music News is collecting lists for jazz and experimental music. Eric Alper is doing the same thing for "best of" lists across a wider range of genres.

For a much more comprehensive 2016 "list of lists" for jazz and other kinds of music, try this one from Dean Minderman on St. Louis Jazz Notes.

As for my own "Best of the Year" list, given how much I love reading and aggregating such lists, I'm surprisingly not so much into making one for myself. That being said, here are a few albums from the jazz & blues world that I found particularly wonderful in 2016.

  • Take Me to the Alley by Gregory Porter
  • Let Me Get By by The Tedeschi Trucks Band
  • Blackstar by David Bowie
  • A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke by Vijay Iyer / Wadada Leo Smith -
  • Ride the One by Paul Reddick
  • Perfection by The Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio
  • Emily's D+Evolution by Esperanza Spalding
  • Heal My Soul by Jeff Healey
  • Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny by Cuong Vu Trio with Pat Metheny

(Yeah, I know, it's not quite Monday as I'm posting this, but close enough...)


Update 2016.12.22. Added a bunch of new ones since the 18th as well as filling in some missed ones.
Update 2017.01.06. A bunch of new ones, of course, and a few ones I missed before. I'm unlikely to update again unless there's a gap needing filling such as discovering a bunch of non-English language posts that I've missed. If you know of any such posts that I've missed, please let me know either to dupuisj at gmail dot com or in the comments.

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Friday Fun: To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma -- Crowdfunding the Strangest Band of All Time

Apr 15 2016 Published by under friday fun, music mondays, Uncategorized

Magma, the strangest rock band of all time, needs you to help finance a documentary film about their life and work.

So here goes. Up until a year or so ago I'd never heard of the French prog rock band Magma, or at least their music had never penetrated my consciousness. But last year while spending the month of May in Paris, I visited a bunch or record stores (and book stores and comic stores...) and noticed records and CDs by this band Magma prominently displayed, like I should know who they are or something. It took me a while to notice enough that I forced myself to dig a bit deeper and read up about them online and maybe listen to a bit of their music. I liked it, for sure, but didn't really get all that excited. Prog rock isn't really my thing. But earlier this year I discovered their off-shoot band One Shot -- who have a much more jazz rock/fusion sound -- gave Magma another listen. But again, not too much of an impact yet.

And then I attended Magma's concert here in Toronto as part of their Endless Tour....the only other musical experience I can recall that was even stranger and more compelling was a Sun Ra concert I attended way back in the late 1980's in Montreal. I was blown away, which was not bad for -- at the very last minute -- deciding to attend a concert by a band I really didn't know all that much about.

Sinuous and pulsating, their music is a kind of hybrid of the intense, ecstatic jazz of John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders and the over-the-top operatic bombast of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. You know, the music that always plays in horror movies as the gates of hell open and a monster emerges to devour all mankind.

Of course, Magma's lyrics are sung/chanted in the the language created by founder Christian Vander: Kobaïan. With a cosmic storyline about refugees fleeing a environmentally devastated Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Created by Vander in the late 1960s, Magma is truly as unique as unique gets. Other bands say they are unique, Magma lives it.

Fast forward to 2-16. Some dedicated fans from Vancouver want to make a documentary film about Magma and they've setup a Kickstarter (running until April 27th) to raise a bit of the money they need to finance the project. That Kickstarter is here. Let's support a film about a truly unique artist with a vision like none other.

As a bit of supplemental reading, here are a few cool bits I've found explaining the Magma phenomenon.

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Music Monday: Year's Best Jazz Album Lists!

Dec 22 2015 Published by under music, music mondays

(OK, Music Monday one day late...)

Science books are an abiding, long term passion, one which has been reflected here on the blog by my compulsive listing of the Best Science Books of the year, 2015 included. This year I'm expanding the obsessive listing franchise to include another abiding passion, jazz music.

But I won't be listing individual jazz albums, just other people's year end lists. As for my own year-end list of best jazz album, I'm afraid I don't really buy enough new ones every year to make a list practical.

Here goes. These lists are as at mid-day December 22, 2015. I'm mostly only mentioning lists that are jazz-focused rather than general lists that might include a jazz album or two. I may update the list after the new year. As well, if I've missed any or if you want to contribute jazz album suggestions of your own, please feel free in the comments. In particular, if anyone out there knows of lists from non-English or -French jazz cultures, I would really love to see those. As you can see, I added a couple of pre-end-of-year lists from France to give a bit more of an international flavour.


Oh, what the heck.

Here are five jazz albums I really enjoyed this year, in no particular order.

  • For One to Love by Cecile McLorin Salvant

  • Break Stuff by The Vijay Iyer Trio

  • Wild Man Dance by Charles Lloyd

  • Made in Chicago by Jack Dejohnette

  • Dans la foret de ma mémoire by Orchestre national de jazz de Montreal, featuring Marianne Trudel (composer), Christine Jensen (director), Ingrid Jensen (guest soloist), Anne Schaefer (vocals)

Album of the Year aggregates a lot of lists & rankings though not that much jazz or blues.

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Music Mondays: Five cover versions I really love

Aug 05 2013 Published by under music mondays

It's been a while since I posted one of these lists, that's for sure. A couple of weeks ago someone on Twitter posted a link to the Tool version of led Zeppelin's No Quarter. "No that's cool!" I thought to myself. Wouldn't it be fun to add that to a bunch of other great cover versions and do a Music Monday post. And here we go.

All of this brings up the endless debate on cover versions: close copy as homage or total re-invention? I like both so I won't take sides. And a few of each are included below.

  • No Quarter. A Led Zeppelin song covered by Tool.
  • Young Man Blues. A Mose Allison song covered by The Who.
  • Hand of Doom. A Black Sabbath song covered by Slayer.
  • Mustang Sally. A Mack Rice song made famous by Wilson Pickett here covered by Buddy Guy.
  • Tumbling Dice. A Rolling Stones song covered by Johnny Copeland.
  • 30 Days in the Hole. A Humble Pie song covered by Gov't Mule. (OK, six songs, but who's going to complain?)

What are some of your favourite cover versions of songs?

(Sadly, I can't remember who it was that tweeted the YouTube video that got all this started. If it was you, please feel free to identify yourself in the comments.)

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Music Mondays: Five songs I really love

May 13 2013 Published by under music mondays

It's been a very long time since I did a Music Monday of any variety, never mind of the Five songs I really love variety. So it's fun to check in again and share what I've been obsessing over on my iPod and on Youtube lately. And oddly, some of these are repeats from earlier lists, probably indicating that my music tastes are pretty consistent.

Anyways, these are all on the blues rock spectrum and every one supremely awesome. These are five songs I just never get tired of.


  • Midnight in Harlem by The Tedeschi Trucks Band. This is absolutely my favourite song from the last few years. We saw TTB last summer at the Toronto Jazz Festival and they were amazing. This version is pretty representative of the live versions on YouTube. I've highlighted Derek Trucks a bunch of times. The song first appeared on the Revelator album and there's also a great live version on Everybody's Talkin'.
  • Goin' Down South by RL Burnside. This is the live version from the Burnside on Burnside. This is simply one of the most intense live blues recordings ever. A must-listen.
  • Tell the Truth by Eric Clapton. This version of the old Derek & the Dominoes song is from the 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010. Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks also contribute.
  • How Blue Can You Get by BB King. Simply my favourite blues song by my all time favourite blues performer.
  • Road Runner by Bo Diddley. This is a live version that was used in a car commercial a year or two ago, but it's a great one nevertheless.

And don't be shy. Add some links to songs you really love.

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Music Mondays: Five Clapton collaborations

Sep 12 2011 Published by under music mondays

I'm a huge Eric Clapton fan, particularly of his blues output, always have been, always will be. There's only one artist I've seen in concert more time that EC, but more on that later.

One of the things I've always found interesting and admirable about him is his desire to collaborate with other artists, to try and stretch himself a little bit farther. It's also evident in the vast array of wonderful blues guitarists he's recorded with or gone on tour with over the years, either as sidemen or as opening acts. Mark Knopfler, Derek Trucks, Jimmy Vaughn, Bonnie Raitt, Doyle Bramhall II, Robert Cray, Jeff Beck, Albert Lee, George Harrison and others. The Collaborations and Guest Appearances part of his discography speaks for itself.

He's also recorded a bunch of collaborative albums in the latter stages of his career, say the last 10 years or so, and I thought I'd highlight five of them here.

So, here's a sampling of some of Clapton's recently recorded collaborative outings.

  • Riding with the King by BB King and Eric Clapton. Remember I mentioned that there was only one artist I've seen in concert more often than Eric Clapton. Yes, that would be BB King, who I've adored since watching him on the Johnny Carson Show with my father when I was a kid. Riding With the King is a terrific blues rock CD.
  • Danger by JJ Cale and Eric Clapton. I guess you could say that JJ Cale was always Clapton's muse for the laid back side of his work. A few years ago they collaborated on a, yes, very laid back CD called The Road to Escondido. Laid back or not, it's well worth a listen. It'll grow on you.
  • Outside Woman Blues by Cream. I guess it's a bit of a stretch to call the 2005 Cream reunion a collaboration rather than just a reunion, but since it had been so long since Clapton had worked with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce and they did a bunch of non-Cream blues tunes, I'll just go for it. They released a CD of their Royal Albert Hall concert, Royal Albert Hall: London May 2-3-5-6 2005.
  • Forever Man by Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. Clapton and Steve Winwood were in Blind Faith together back in the 60s, but had never toured together as a duo. They remedied that a few years ago and released a CD with highlights of the tour:Live from Madison Square Garden. Their set list was a nice amalgamation of rock standards as well as Clapton and Winwood solo tunes.
  • Layla by Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton. The whole impetus for doing this Clapton list this week is the immanent release of his latest collaborative project, this one with jazzman Wynton Marsalis: Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play The Blues. The version of Layla that is featured here is a pretty radical reworking of the song, something that Clapton has done a few times before but never quite this way. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest!

If you like these, I'd recommend you troll around on YouTube where you'll find a wide array of performances with Clapton in various collaborative settings. I like this one of Tell the Truth.

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Music Mondays: 10 Scientist Rock Stars

Jun 13 2011 Published by under music mondays

Here's a list worth giving a listen to: 10 Scientist Rock Stars. Let's take a look, starting with by far the most famous:

  1. Brian May. Brian May is the guitarist for a little band called Queen. He is consistently ranked as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. And he has a Ph.D. in astrophysics. May studied physics and mathematics at Imperial College London and was in the process of getting his Ph.D. when Queen hit it big. Thirty years later, in 2007, he completed his dissertation. Yes, the man who wrote "We Will Rock You" also wrote A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud. You probably know the words to only one of these.
  2. Greg Graffin
  3. Milo Aukerman
  4. Brian Cox
  5. Dan Snaith
  6. Tom Scholz
  7. Mira Aroyo
  8. Diane de Kerckhove
  9. Art Garfunkel
  10. Dexter Holland

For more, check out Eva Amsen's Musicians and Scientists blog!

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